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1. Authorship.-There is very strong external evidence to prove that this book was written by the Apostle John. Passing over some earlier apparent witnesses, we find unmistakable mention of it in the writings of Justin Martyr. He expressly refers to it as the work of the apostle, in the dialogue which he held with Trypho, an unbelieving Jew, in the very city of Ephesus where John lived, and within half a century after his death. Equally clear and explicit is the testimony of Irenæus, who, as we have seen, was a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John. In one passage Irenæus even gives as his authority for preferring 666 to 616 as "the number of the beast," in the disputed reading (xiii. 18), the testimony of those who had seen John face to face. The book is twice mentioned in the Canon of the Muratorian Fragment, once in such a way as to imply that it was publicly read in church; it was one of the books on which Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a commentary (about 170 A.D.); and it is expressly quoted as "the Scripture" in the letter sent by the persecuted Christians of Vienne and Lyons to their brethren in Asia Minor (177 A.D.).
But soon after the middle of the second century the
book began to be regarded with suspicion, owing to the use made of it by a heretical party called the Montanists, who indulged in extravagant notions regarding the "thousand years" of Christ's reign with His saints which was to take place before the end of the world (xx.). This feeling of distrust was strengthened by observing what a marked difference there was in the language and style of the Revelation as compared with the other works ascribed to John; and a considerable amount of controversy took place on the subject. Ultimately, however, the objections were overruled, and the book obtained general acceptance in the Church.
In modern times the controversy has been renewed; and objectors are still disposed to insist, as of old, on the internal marks of a different authorship from that of the fourth Gospel.1 In particular it is pointed out that whereas the Gospel is written in good Greek, the Revelation is full of grammatical mistakes and eccentricities; so that while there is scarcely anything in the former to show that the writer was other than a Greek, the latter would give us the impression of its having been written by a person who first thought in Hebrew and had afterwards to turn his thoughts into a language with which he was imperfectly acquainted.
To meet this objection the following considerations may be adduced :—
(1) The difference in the nature and contents of the two books; the one being mainly narrative or colloquial, the other being formed on the model of the Old Testament prophets. (2) The possible effect on the apostle of many years' residence in Ephesus (if we accept the earlier date assigned to the Revelation) in the way of improving his knowledge of Greek. (3) The unfavour
1 The Tübingen school, however, generally admit Revelation as the work of the apostle, and reject the fourth Gospel.
able circumstances under which he appears to have written the Revelation; and the possible employment by him of a skilled Greek amanuensis in the composition of his Gospel.
On the other hand, amid all the diversity between the two books both in ideas and in language, there are not wanting some important features of resemblance, betokening an identity of authorship.
(1) The name "Lamb" is only applied to the Saviour in the fourth Gospel (i. 29, 36) and in the Revelation (v. 6, 8, 12, etc.), although it is indirectly referred to in 1 Peter i. 19 and Acts viii. 32. In like manner the name "Word " is only applied to the Saviour in the Gospel of John (i. 1, etc.), in First Epistle of John (i. 1, "the Word of life"), and in the Revelation (xix. 13, "The Word of God").
(2) Some of John's favourite expressions, such as, "he that overcometh," "witness" (noun or verb), "keep (my) word," are of frequent occurrence in the Revelation.
(3) In Revelation i. 7 we seem to hear an echo of John xix. 34-37, where alone the piercing of our Lord with the spear is recorded, and where there is the same quotation of Zech. xii. 10-in the same unusual form,
(4) The Greek word meaning "true" or "real,” in opposition to what is false or counterfeit, occurs nine times in St. John's Gospel, four times in 1 John, and ten times in the Revelation; but only five times in all the rest of the New Testament.
(5) The Revelation, like the fourth Gospel, recognises our Lord's pre-eminence and His title to divine honours (i. 8, 17, 18; iii. 14, 21; v. 9, 13; xix. 16; xxii. 13).
(6) A still stronger feature of resemblance may be seen in the similarity of the representations which the two books give of the Saviour's triumph as resulting
from successive conflicts marked by apparent and temporary defeat. In these conflicts the Gentiles, centred in "Babylon," take the place held by the unbelieving Jews in the Gospel; and the "disciples" of the earlier days are represented by the Church, or "the bride" (of Christ).
It has been objected that the Revelation, unlike the other writings of John, gives the name of its avowed author (i. 1, 4, 9; xxii. 8). But this is sufficiently accounted for by the prophetical character of the book. It was the practice of the prophets of the Old Testament, although not of the historians, to mention their names in their writings.
2. The Readers. It was evidently meant for the Church at large-represented by "the seven Churches which are in Asia" (i. 4).
3. Date and Place of Composition.-From i. 9 we learn that the revelation was made to John when he was in the isle that is called Patmos" (in the Ægean Sea) "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." From i. 11; x. 4; xiv. 13; xix. 9; xxi. 5, we should infer that it was committed to writing in the island immediately after it was received. As to the date of the apostle's banishment to Patmos, Irenæus expressly mentions that the vision was seen almost within his own generation at the end of the reign of Domitian (Emperor 81-96 A.D.). There is nothing in any earlier writer to throw discredit on this statement; and there are several things in the book itself which seem to point to a late date of composition, e.g. the important and intimate relation in which John appears to stand to the principal Churches of Asia Minor, the signs of marked spiritual declension in several of these Churches (ii. 4, 5; iii. 1, 2), the use of the expression "the Lord's day" (i. 10), instead of the earlier "first day of the week," and of the
phrase "synagogue of Satan" (ii. 9; iii. 9), which would scarcely have been employed by a Christian writer previous to the destruction of Jerusalem.
At the same time there are some observations by writers later than Irenæus that favour an earlier date. Tertullian tells us that at Rome the Apostle John was plunged in burning oil, without sustaining any injury, and that he was afterwards banished to an island. It is in connection with the martyrdom of Peter and Paul that he makes the remark, which suggests the close of Nero's reign as the time referred to; and accordingly we find Jerome (about the end of the fourth century). making an explicit statement to that effect. It is quite possible Irenæus may have made a mistake, occasioned perhaps by the frequency of banishment in the reign of Domitian; and this is the view taken by some critics at the present day, who can only account for the style and character of the book on the supposition that it was written a considerable time before the Gospel. The key to the interpretation of the book, they conceive, is to be found in the identification of the reigning king in xvii. 10 with the Emperor Galba, the successor of Nero. The latter is regarded as the head of the beast referred to in xiii. 3, the healing of its wound symbolising the restoration of Nero, who was then supposed to be still alive and in hiding in the East. Confirmation of this is found in xvii. 8, 11, and also in the symbolical "number of the beast" ("the number of a man . . . Six hundred and sixty and six,” xiii. 18), which answers in Hebrew letters to the name "Neron Cæsar." But it would be more natural to reckon the number in Greek letters (as Irenæus did); and in either case a correspondence to it can be made out in the case of a great many other prominent names. This weakens very much the force of the argument, for we cannot infer much from the